Monday, February 22, 2010

McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity: An Old Kind of Apostasy

The most succinct and kind summary I’ve come across of Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith comes from Kevin DeYoung:

Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, is two steps forward in terms of clarity and ten steps backward in terms of orthodoxy. A New Kind of Christianity, more than any previous McLaren project, provides a forceful account of what the emergent leader believes and why.

From all accounts, McLaren indeed casts off his past maddening lack of clarity, and that to his credit. The problem is what his newfound clarity reveals – apostasy, and that not of a particularly novel kind. DeYoung again:

For all the talk of being new (xi) and at the same time ancient (255), McLarenism is neither. It is old fashioned liberalism. McLaren, despite his historical plundering, has no right to claim he is in tradition of Martin Luther because he finds “sustaining inner strength,” or in the tradition of the Wesleys because “our hearts can be ‘strangely warmed’” (227). This is like saying I’m in the tradition of Ignatius because I have strong convictions. It doesn’t work. McLaren stands in the tradition of Ritschl, Harnack, Rauschenbush, and Whitehead, plain and simple. . . .

McLaren’s Christianity is not new and certainly not improved. I don’t believe you can even call it Christianity. It is liberalism dressed up for the 21st century. We can only hope this wave of liberalism fades as dramatically as did the last.

Mike Wittmer reviews McLaren’s book in more dogged detail, going into all ten questions, beginning here and ending here. He begins by noting that McLaren tries to have it both ways, playing the kind martyr while smearing his critics:

I read the introductory three chapters of A New Kind of Christianity, and so far it’s an updated version of the Brian we’ve seen before. He claims to be “a mild-mannered guy” who is only looking for a new way to be a Christian that will boost the declining numbers in our churches, and he can’t understand why his critics respond with “fear,” “clenched teeth,” and “suspicion and accusation.” Brian’s really good at winning sympathy, and soon I was loathing myself for ever politely disagreeing with such a nice man.

But then I remembered that this debate about the Christian faith—which he and his friends started—is not a personality contest. You can’t dismiss what Christians have always believed and then expect a free pass because you’re likeable. And just below the surface of Brian’s humble, can’t-we-all-just-get-along vibe is an accusatory tone that repeatedly compares his critics to a religious Gestapo whose leaders defend their conservative beliefs because they don’t want to lose their jobs.

I could go on, but the linked reviews do better than I can. I will say that if it was not clear before, it is most certainly clear now: McLaren’s veneer of an enlightened, “generous orthodoxy” is just that, a veneer over his apostate attack on the faith and on the faithful.

Other reviews (with a hat tip to Standfirm):

Trevin Wax

Tim Challies

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